Can a pool table be refinished?

The short answer is, yes.  We inherited a 1980’s pool table complete with all of it’s old ugly faux-wood formica trim and worn out kelly green felt when we bought this house almost 3 years ago.  It SCREAMED dated, just like the rest of the place.  However, for us non-pro billiard table owners, it seemed to be in pretty decent shape otherwise.  And truth be told it would probably cost a ton just to get someone to disassemble it and haul it out of here.  So I decided to fix it up.  And well, since I have a ton of other things I need to spend money on in this house I decided it needed to be a budget friendly, mostly DIY fix. 

My fugly (but free) 80’s pool table

What I really wanted was a table that looked more like this gorgeous number from Pottery Barn. And I thought I could pull it off for a fraction of it’s $7500 price tag.

Benchwright Pool Table with Table Tennis Top, Blackened Oak
Sweet PB pool table of my dreams

So going in I knew I needed to re-felt the table.  The old felt was worn and was nearly bald in spots.  While I have read some blogs on DIY’ing this process, I “felt” (sorry couldn’t help myself) that re-felting was something I was going to have a pro do. I contacted a local billiard store and set that up.  In the meantime, it meant that I had to disassemble the table and get ready for the re-felting appointment.  I removed the faux wood trim that skirts the side lip of the table (it was flimsily tacked on with finishing nails) and it was so old and brittle that it actually crumbled as I pried it off.  Eventually I threw out these pieces and replaced them with some select pine boards 1 x 4s that I bought at Home Depot.  I removed the bolts from underneath the table that allowed me to pull out the rails and bumpers.  In addition to being held in by bolts, these pieces are held to one another by the pockets which have sturdy pins on each end. 

Pocket pins hold rails together

I despised the look of the fringe pockets on our table and ordered a new set of slightly less ugly leather pockets on Amazon (most of the good-looking modern pool tables have rails with integrated pockets – the only options for replacing the older style is either fringe or leather).  Hey pool table repair companies, there’s market space available for those that provide attractive replacement pool table pockets – wiiiiide open.

All rails and bumpers and side skirts removed.

Once I had the rails and pockets off, I used a deglosser called Liquid Sandpaper to prepare the wood for refinishing.  I then primed it with Zinsser B-I-N Primer.  This is a super polymer-based primer (great for covering knots in wood or stains).  I used it because I wasn’t sure how well paint would adhere and be resilient to wear and tear on something like a pool table rail that gets frequent cue hits and arms resting on it.  I then took great care using a foam roller and several coats of a satin finish black paint, I think it was leftover paint from some of my interior door and window trim. 

painted pool table
Base repainted black. Looking better already!

The most challenging part of the painting process was having to take care using many q-tips dipped in acetone to remove the paint on the little inlay pearl rail sight markers that I carelessly painted over.

Pearl inlay rail sights – try to paint around these.

Once painting was complete the pool table was ready to be re-felted.  The billiard technician came to my home with all his tools and the dark grey felt that I had selected.   After watching him do the re-felting process, I think I probably could have done this part too.  He removed the old felt, used a spray adhesive straight on the slate and laid the new felt out, wrapped it over the edges and stapled it to the wood underneath.  However,  it’s probably best that he did do this because when he removed the felt from the rails he noticed a problem.  The rubber bumpers attached to the rails was brittle and rotten.  There was no sense in re-felting over bad rubber resulting in a table that performs poorly, so I decided to go ahead and have him replace the bumpers too.  The billiard technicians also leveled the table in its final resting place in the room, then they put it all back together including the new pockets, new bumpers, rails and even the painted and primed pine boards I used for side skirts.  We completed the area with an inexpensive black cue rack mounted to the wall.

refinished pool table
Refinished Pool table

All totaled, refurbishing this full size pool table cost under $800 including the re-felting, re-bumpering, primer, paint, wood trim, leather pockets and cue rack.  While that’s not cheap, it’s certainly cheaper than buying a brand new regulation size table which can easily set you back about $3500 on the lower end or in the $7 to 10K range for the modern looking ones at Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel.